MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Millions of Americans who awoke on Christmas morning to find boxes of universal health care and renewable energy under their trees showed up at America's shopping malls early the next morning asking if they could exchange the mysterious gifts for Van Halen tickets and Guitar Hero III.
The gifts were left by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president by promising to give the American people universal health care and pre-school, alternative energy and billions of dollars of other goods and services free of charge.
"America wants universal health care, free pre-school, and our troops brought out of harm's way," Clinton said in a statement released yesterday morning. "And these gift boxes are my pledge to deliver what America wants when I become president. We have waited too long for a secular president who will vaingloriously take from one segment of the population and give to everyone else in the name of Christian compassion. If you elect me, I promise I will have no problem doling out goodies that somebody else paid for. And expensive ones, too!"
But in a surprising turn of events, Americans are returning Clinton's gifts despite their popularity in opinion polls. Millions of Americans ventured out of their homes yesterday with the sole intention of exchanging Clinton's presents for something they might actually have bought had they been allowed to keep their own money and spend it on themselves.
"Dude, this is totally not what I asked for," said Evan Tellwether, 34, of Manchester, N.H., where hundreds of the gifts appeared under Christmas trees on Tuesday morning. "Van Halen is coming here in March, man, and it's sold out, and now instead of tickets I've got an empty box that says 'alternative energy' on it. And, frankly, I have a sneaking suspicion that somehow I paid for it, too. Thanks a freakin' lot, Hillary Clinton."
Ryan Hathaway, 28, of Des Moines, Iowa, said he found one of the universal health care packages under his tree instead of the PlayStation 3 he wanted. "Universal health care? I'm 23, man, what the hell am I going to do with that?" he asked. "I want my video game!"
Egbert Hiznogget, professor of political science at Yale, said that Clinton's mistake was to imply a choice between an abstract political concept and physical goods people could spend their own money on.
"People are happy to tell pollsters they want universal health care because they assume someone else is going to pay for it," Hiznogget said. "There's an underlying sense that there really is a Santa Claus out there who is going to give you something for nothing. But when it comes to presents under their tree, people know there is no such thing as Santa. They understand that whatever gifts are there, they paid for them. Except for the fruitcake. So instead of contrasting her health care plan with Barack Obama's, Clinton managed to get the American people to compare the distant benefit of government-subsidized alternative energy sometime in the future with the immediate disappointment of not having High School Musical 2 under the tree."
Spokesmen for several major retailers said their corporate headquarters have had to e-mail the Clinton campaign's main phone number to all of their retail outlets because the number of people trying to return the wrapped boxes was overwhelming their customer service desks.
The most requested exchanges were, in this order, Van Halen concert tickets, Guitar Hero III, flat panel TVs, global positioning systems, digital cameras, iPhones, gift cards, and donations to the campaign of any candidate promising tax cuts.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and editor of the humor blog www.gunsnbutter.com..
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